Mapping Design Information


One aspect of capturing design rationale is to provide a human-readable high level summary of the design information contained in a set of conceptual design documents. Compilation of such a ``design information map''      a location-keyed global summary of the information in the documents      constitutes the generation of design knowledge. We describe a project which does mapping of the design information contained in the text-graphic pages of an electronic design notebook used by mechanical engineers.

The map making system translates a user query in terms of design requirements into a text-graphic object base query, which returns a set of notebook pages dealing with those requirements.

The Design Map-Maker System

Design Information Capture


The design map-maker system uses Electronic Design Notebook
pages as a text-graphic object base.

Design Information Use


The feature table enables automatic query formulation.


The design map-maker was run on the example directory which recorded the design of the Tertiary Mirror Assembly (1.3MB of text-graphic data, 76 files, 145 screenfuls). The pages had been tagged by designers from an Idea table, and the TMA-Reqmt-To-Query-Table had been constructed as described above.

One possible scenario of use: a new person has joined the Tertiary Mirror Assembly (TMA) design team, taking over the job of a departed member of the team. He is particularly interested in material she and the rest of the team generated relating to the magnetic bearing (a crucial part of the TMA design). At this point his knowledge of the project is abstract and institutional      he got it by reading the organization's official initial project material      and it is in terms of requirements, specifications and parameters. So from this view, and his general engineering background, he constructs a query in order to find all of the pages having to do with magnetic bearings.

Click here to see query and resulting map.

The designer's interface to the map-maker is the Electronic Design Notebook. Her experience of the design process can be seen as having two interleaved synergistic aspects, the generation and conversation of design information:


Generation: As the designer uses Electronic Design Notebook, the EDN remembers not only the finished work, but also the sequence of the designer's text-graphic actions which generated the work. During generation, EDN functions as a performance medium.

Design Information: Archived as the EDN pages themselves, which serve as a text-graphic object base.

Conservation: A machine inference system can then guide another person through the designer's work. In retrieving design information through text-graphic computation, the EDN functions as a processing medium.

The basic theme in the Electronic Design Notebook is laissez faire: first, let the user write and draw whatever she wants; second, levels of voluntary user cooperation, with increased assistance with increased cooperation. No special user behavior is required in order for the system to provide navigation assistance. And if the user chooses to cooperate and use certain conventions in creating the text-graphics in her design notebook, then the usefulness of the navigation aid will be increased. After the designer enjoys the benefits of cooperation, then she will be inclined to do it more often, thus increasing the usefulness of the navigation aid supplied by the system.








This paper was presented at the AAAI 1992 Workshop on Design Rationale Capture and Use, and published in the working notes. San Jose, CA, July 1992.

It is available on the Web in PostScript (sans figures temporarily), or on paper by request from PGC.

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(C) Copyright 1994 PGC